The Marvels and Singularity of Vision

By | Thursday, February 08, 2024 Leave a Comment
Now that The Marvels is available for streaming, I finally sat down to watch it last night. And I thought it was fine. Not the best movie Marvel's put out, but certainly not the worst and by no means was it actually bad. It didn't particularly grab me, though. There were several instances where there was character or plot moment that was set up and paid off later, but I thought in a lot of cases either the setup or the payoff was underwhelming.

Like, there's a bit towards the end where Carol is asked to use her powers in a way she never has before and she says as much. Monica then responds by saying that over the past several days, she's had to do a lot of things with her powers that she'd never done before. Which is true, technically, but there was only one instance where that was actually called out as such. Which means the audience is going to respond with, "Several? What besides flying?" You can go back and make some inferences, and deconstruct some scenes to kind of back your way in to some other things but most viewers aren't going to do that. So the setup and payoff are indeed there, but it's not very elegantly handled.

Now there could be any number of reasons for this kind of thing. Maybe the script itself never had more than the original instance. Maybe the original script had them, but some had to be pulled out because the rest of the scene caused larger story problems. Maybe they were there and filmed, but they had to be cut for one reason or another. There are easily hundreds of people whose input into the film could've made that (or any other setup/payoff) weaker than it could've been. Admittedly, there's only maybe a couple dozen that are realistic candidates, but I'm not interested in trying to blame anyone for anything in the first place.

My point is that a movie has a great many people that have an impact on whether or not it's a good film. Hundreds just on that storytelling element alone, not to mention costumers, lighting technicians, the visual effects crew, the sound designers, and on and on... And all those people can dilute whatever the message or the intention of the "primary" creator (however you define that) is. The movies and shows that I tend to like are the ones whose creator had such a powerful vision that it shines through DESPITE the number of other people working on it. Not surprisingly, those works are ones who are generally associated quite directly with the name of the main creator. Friz Lang's Metropolis. Orson Wells' Citizen Kane. Joss Whedon's Serenity. To a somewhat lesser degree, Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek. George Lucas' Star Wars.

Comics, by their nature, have considerably fewer people working on them and, of those that do, there are generally only one or two people who really have a key role in presenting the message(s). Namely, the writer and the artist. Those two people, if they have a strong vision, find it presented nearly undiluted at all. Take a book like Planetary or Watchmen. Powerful stuff put out by essentially two guys. You want to make something even more powerful? Have only one person working on the whole thing.

Will Eisner. Jack Kirby. Walt Simonson. Jeff Smith. These are guys who write and draw very well, and they have something to say. That's partly, I think, why they're legends in the comic book community. At least moreso than, say, Curt Swan or John Buscema. Not to slight either of those two excellent artists, mind you, but I think Simonson and Smith occupy a somewhat different place in the comic book hall of fame than Swan or Buscema.

But it's that type of singularity of vision that I appreciate in my media and why I generally don't really care for mass-market TV and movies. No matter how well scritped or acted (or whatever) it is, it does not have the same singular voice that you get with comic books. And I think that's why Hollywood has been looking to comics for good ideas lately, because they recognize at some level that voice and are responding to it. (Obviously, though, they generally want to put their OWN stamp on the piece at that point and dilute the message. I doubt many Hollywood execs put that much conscious thought into WHY comics often have better stories than movies and TV.)

But that boils down why I like comics better. After all, why would I want to bother with one medium whose modern conventions inherently make it less powerful than some other medium? Why not just skip right to the more powerful medium in the first place?
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